What do great leaders, famous movie directors, and well-known authors all have in common? They are great storytellers. Think of your favorite movie. Watch it now and notice how it pulls you into the story. Walt Disney mastered this skill to create unforgettable experiences that immersed you in fantastic worlds. Consider your favorite literature classic and how it connects with you emotionally through a compelling story. Powerful storytelling is a leader’s secret weapon to inspire action and commitment.
The best news is that you can develop this skill. Granted, some people are better natural storytellers. With that being said, all of us can become better at this critical skill.
As a leader, you want to connect with your customer and convert them into fans of your brand product or service. But most leaders don’t connect because they focus on the data and logical arguments when what your customer really wants the emotional pull of a story. Therefore, hook your customers with a compelling story following the A.B.T. framework.
Park Howell, IMS Educator and best-selling author of Brand Bewitchery, uses this simple but effective storytelling framework to teach leaders at all levels how to become better storytellers. In fact, the previous paragraph followed his approach. Let me diagram it out for you.
Setup / First sentence. Who is your target audience and what do they want?
Problem / Second sentence. Why don’t they have it?
Resolution / Third sentence. What about your product or service helps the target audience get it?
Once you are aware of this framework, you will see it everywhere. In popular songs, nursery rhymes, and even in famous speeches as the one below:
THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS
We are a great AND mighty nation, BUT now we are engaged in a horrible civil war that we cannot allow to destroy this country. THEREFORE, it is up to us, the living, to make sure that the souls lost in this battle did not die in vain.
Even though this is a simple framework, it takes practice to make it effective. The first step is to start with the BUT statement since you first want to identify the problem your product or service is solving. Once you have identified the problem, go back to the AND statement to introduce your audience to the subject. Finally, provide the solution that your product or service can uniquely solve.
Remember, to connect with people, we need to bring them into our experience. Stories that do that will instantly improve your credibility and relatability. In his book, The Power of Storytelling, Ty Bennett identifies the most effective places to use a story when communicating with someone.
- Opening – As you begin a conversation, presentation, or speech, try opening with a story instead of launching into the presentation.
- Closing – If you want your audience to remember what you said, then try to end with a story.
- Introducing a point – We are programmed to remember a story with much greater accuracy than a list of facts or data.
- Validate a point – After you make a point, use a story to identify how it can be applied.
- Handle objections – A practical framework, according to Ty, can be summed up in three words – feel, felt, found. First, you establish that you understand how your audience feels. Then you connect with them by saying you felt the same way. Finally, you share how you found a new and better way.
Remember, you should focus on establishing an emotional connection with your audience. Doing this makes the audience more engaged in what you are saying and will likely remember and apply it with greater frequency.
I love the storytelling delivery tip that Ty shares in his programs, which is the following: “You don’t retell a story, you relive a story.” I encourage you to read books, watch films and podcasts on storytelling. I recently hosted a podcast episode with Park Howell on the Power of Storytelling where we discuss how to become a great storyteller. Powerful storytelling is a leader’s secret weapon. According to Tom Peters, best-selling author, and recognized business expert, “The best leaders…almost without exception and at every level, are master users of stories.”
ABOUT CHARLES GOOD
Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.